Return an email to the sender

We see a lot of questions that go something like this:

I would like to not only block particular emails but also send them back to the sender so they know they've been rejected. Is that possible. Right now I can only send them to the Junk email folder. Thanks.

Yes, you could do this (using an autoreply rule), but why? If the message is from a spammer with a legitimate address, all you are doing is letting them know your address is valid. If the address is fake, you create more needless traffic and the only result will be the need to delete the NDR you'll get back.

There are a very few circumstances when it makes some sense to reply to unwanted email - but you should do it just once and type a short note asking the sender to stop sending you messages.

They include:

  • If the address belongs to someone you know but don't want to be in contact with, reply to the sender and ask them to stop sending you email. Or just delete the message and forgot about it. This method works best with former coworkers, family members, etc., that you no longer want to receive email from.
  • If it’s from a company and you can't get unsubscribed from their mailing list, reply and ask to be removed then set up a rule to delete the messages and forget about it.

When the sender is a spammer, just delete the message and go on. If you send an autoreply one of two things will happen: you'll get an NDR back or you'll confirm you address is valid and end up with a lot more spam. Since most spammers use fake from addresses, you don't have to worry too much about confirming your address. It is also mostly useless to add spammers to your blocked senders list as their addresses keep changing.

Bottom line: delete the unwanted messages using the junk mail filter and/or using a rule and forget about it.

  • Mel

    I wish you had answered the 'how to' on this. I have friends I don't want to block, but they 'pass it on' to everyone on their contact list, passing my email address to people I don't know and who then pass it on to everyone on their contact lists. I just want to auto reply a polite request to remove me from the list of people to whom they pass on every 'pass it on' email.

  • Diane Poremsky

    This type of response is better left to individual messages, not an autoresponse rule, since its difficult to weed the junk from a legit message using rules.

    Use AutoText to set up a boilerplate 'stop sending me this junk' reply - when someone sends you junk, reply and insert.

    If you have a problem with a group of people, email them as a group and ask them to stop forwarding junk to you and stop sharing your address with people you don't know. I'd probably put all of the names in the To field... and ask if they like you sharing their address with strangers. :) Maybe create a hotmail and gmail address to include in the To field to make the point.

  • jill rosita

    how can i block a specific individual from sending me emails...AND have them receive an auto response letting them know that i am not recieving their emails

  • Diane Poremsky

    We don't recommend returning messages to spammers as the addresses are often fake. For annoying people/stalkers, reply to one message and tell them to stop emailing you. I recommend being nice about it ("Please stop emailing me."), not mean and hateful ("Stop sending me this junk you worthless jerk or else..."). If the situation warrants it (a stalker), you may need to go to the police. Don't create a rule to reply to every message - that only makes you out to be a spammer on the same level as the person you don't want contacting you.

    Create a rule to delete email from their address - if you can create rules in your account online, create the rule there so outlook won't have to download the message.

  • allingtonlaw

    I wish you would answer the question asked above and not give advice.
    "how can i block a specific individual from sending me emails…AND have them receive an auto response letting them know that i am not recieving their emails"

    Is there a return to sender option or not?

  • Diane Poremsky

    There is no return to sender option. You can do it with a rule that replies with a template. How to create an Autoreply rule and add a condition to the rule to delete the message. It's really better to do this on the server so you don't have to download the messages with Outlook.

  • zapman

    Those suggestions are BS! I don't respond to any of the spam, but do create a rule to send it to trash. Next day, I see any where from 14 to 80 new emails. I just deleted 84 today. There needs to be a way to block all the crap in the junk folder, other than creating new rules for each strange address that appears. Even that is getting old! Can't close my account, need it for business purposes.
    @ allingtonalaw - if you right click on the email, you should see an option to view full header, click on that, somewhere in the new window that opens, you'll find some interesting information, including email address and ip address

  • D Poremsky

    Do you have Junk mail in Outlook enabled? Try setting it on high. If you mail server has a junk filter option, enable it so mail is filtered at the server.